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Recorded for Poem-a-Day March 21, 2019.
About this Poem 

“An elegy that blends predominantly real and a few fictionalized details, this poem was written in honor of a friend who I met way back in fifth grade, who died last year. The loss of this bright, adventurous, beautiful woman who’d been my friend since before either of us wore a bra, since I had braces and hair down to my hips and she was a tall leggy pre-hippie with a cool nickname, who’d coached me through so many ‘firsts,’ (first drunkenness, first crushes, first sex, first drugs, etc., etc.) who had been such a beacon, is hard to process. Poems being one of the ways we can attempt to speak to and of the dead, this poem is for C., who was always 10 steps ahead of me.”
—Amy Gerstler

Poof

Here on my lap, in a small plastic bag,
my share of your ashes. Let me not squander 
them. Your family blindsided me with this gift. 
We want to honor your bond they said at the end 
of your service, which took place, as you'd 
arranged, in a restaurant at the harbor, 
an old two-story boathouse made of dark 
wood. Some of us sat on the balcony, on black 
leather bar stools, staring at rows of docked boats. 
Both your husbands showed up and got along. 
And of course your impossibly handsome son. 
After lunch, a slideshow and testimonials, 
your family left to toss their share of you 
onto the ocean, along with some flowers. 

You were the girlfriend I practiced kissing 
with in sixth grade during zero-sleep 
sleepovers. You were the pretty one. 
In middle school I lived on diet Coke and 
your sexual reconnaissance reports. In this 
telling of our story your father never hits 
you or calls you a whore. Always gentle 
with me, he taught me to ride a bike after 
everyone said I was too klutzy to learn. 
In this version we're not afraid of our bodies. 
In this fiction, birth control is easy to obtain, 
and never fails. You still dive under a stall 
divider in a restroom at the beach to free me 
after I get too drunk to unlock the door. You still 
reveal the esoteric mysteries of tampons. You 
still learn Farsi and French from boyfriends 
as your life ignites. In high school I still guide you 
safely out of the stadium when you start yelling 
that the football looks amazing as it shatters
into a million shimmering pieces, as you 
loudly admit that you just dropped acid. 

We lived to be sixty. Then poof, you vanished. 
I can't snort you, or dump you out over my head, 
coating myself in your dust like some hapless cartoon 
character who's just blown herself up, yet remains 
unscathed, as is the way in cartoons. In this version, 
I remain in place for a while. Did you have a good 
journey? I'm still lagging behind, barking up all 
the wrong trees, whipping out my scimitar far 
in advance of what the occasion demands. As I 
drive home from your memorial, you fizz in 
my head like a distant radio station. What 
can I do to bridge this chasm between us? 
In this fiction, I roll down the window, drive 
uncharacteristically fast. I tear your baggie 
open with my teeth and release you at 85 
miles an hour, music cranked up full blast.

Copyright © 2019 by Amy Gerstler. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 21, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2019 by Amy Gerstler. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 21, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Amy Gerstler

Amy Gerstler

Amy Gerstler is the author of several collections, including Bitter Angel (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1997), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award.

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